Stormy winds wreak havoc in Pulaski

Christopher Harris I CJ

A traffic-blocking tree fell across College Street in downtown Somerset Saturday afternoon in the midst of raging winds that caused chaos throughout Pulaski County.

The great Lena Horne was famous for singing the hit "Stormy Weather." This weekend would have given her a lot to sing about.

Oppressive winds and rain swept through the area on Saturday, taking down numerous trees and power lines and causing chaos -- particularly for Kentucky basketball fans, many of whom saw their televisions go dark as the Wildcats were playing the Alabama Crimson Tide that afternoon.

"There's storm damage all over the county," said Pulaski County Public Safety Officer Stacy Halcomb on Saturday.

In particular, Halcomb noted barn damage in White Lily and Mt. Victory and a trailer in the same area that "scooted off the foundation."

However, Halcomb said he had not been made area of any significant injuries as a result of the storm damage.

Broken utility poles, snapped lines, and felled trees and branches were the most common problems. On busy College Street in Somerset, for instance, traffic was blocked by a tree that stretched over both lanes on the north end of the road.

Joy Bullock, spokesperson for South Kentucky RECC, said that at the peak of the outages, there were just over 9,000 of the electric co-op's customers without power. That number dropped throughout the day, but even by the evening, there were thousands of customers whose power still hadn't been able to be restored.

Once the weather had "settled a bit," that allowed crews to "start working harder" on repairing the damage. Still, Bullock acknowledged it was possible some of the repairs would stretch into Sunday.

"There are a number of broken poles across the system," she said. "It takes longer when you have to get poles restored."

In Pulaski County, the Bronston area to the south, Shopville to the east, and West Somerset were hardest hit by power loss, said Bullock. McCreary and Wayne Counties, both neighboring Pulaski County, also got the worst of it.

The highest-speed gusts in Pulaski County were recorded south of the airport by the RAWS (Remote Automatic Weather Station), which measured the gusts at up to 60 miles per hour, according to Pete Geogerian of the National Weather Service Office in Jackson, Ky. The Mesonet station northwest of Somerset caught the winds at about 48 MPH, and 55 MPH at the airport.

"The biggest gusts were out of the south," said Geogerian, who noted that the line of storms from from the west and central Tennessee.

"What makes this system kind of unique is that the winds just off the surface, even 3,000 feet off the ground, were particularly strong, much stronger than normal this time of year," he added. "We were getting pretty good winds even before the (storm) moved in. In some cases, the winds just before the line were stronger."

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